The great moving process I described in my last post continues; so, another pictureless update post lurks ahead!  :-)

Pasta.  Some days it makes the world go round.  But making it gluten-free can be a royal pain, too.  There was a period of time where I was still so thrilled about being able to make tortellini that I made a batch from scratch every day for lunch, and kept offering spaghetti to anyone who asked.  But boy oh boy I got tired of sweating as I kneaded the dough together, and sweating as I forced dough through that KitchenAid extruder attachment, and sweating as I ran dough through a roller over and over again to make sheets.  And I wore out my KitchenAid extruder in six months to boot.  There had to be a better way.

And there is a better way — if you’re willing to sink some dollars into it.  Where making a pound of pasta from scratch once took two people and two hours, we can now make 2 1/2 pounds in an hour with one, maybe two people — and where we used to work for macaroni, we can now make lasagna noodles, seashell noodles, you name it.  So if you’re really, really committed to making good pasta, early and often, here’s a (hopefully helpful) description of my pasta process.  :-)

You’ll need:

  • A kitchen scale.  Any kitchen scale will do, no reason to be picky; but it’s so, so much easier to measure the dry pasta mix by weight.
  • A food processor.  I recommend KitchenAid; even a refurbished KitchenAid food processor is worth every dollar and then some.
  • A full-process pasta maker.  I strongly recommend a machine from Lello.  The price tag is pretty painful — $200 at a bare minimum! — but it’s absolutely, without-a-doubt worth it.  This thing is built to do its job and last forever doing it.  It’s easy to use and easy to clean, and it does all the work for you.  Just don’t expect to have a lively conversation while it’s running.  :-)
  • Any pasta plates you want for the Lello machine that don’t come with it.  One thing I like about this machine is there’s a much wider variety of pasta plates available than for a KitchenAid stand mixer attachment (where you have the six you start with, and you’re done); I’ve bought plates for ravioli sheets and seashell pasta, and they both work great.  You can’t find these on Amazon, but they’re available from a number of other sites.  (I bought mine here, and was happy with how promptly they arrived in good condition.)

At this point, making the pasta itself breaks down into 5 fairly straightforward steps.

(1)  Make and weigh out the dry pasta mix — cornstarch, potato flour, xanthan gum, and guar gum, that’s it.  Once it’s mixed, use the kitchen scale to measure out exactly how much you’re going to use, to the gram.

How much is that?  Well, it depends.  :-)  For example, I use 325 grams of mix to make about 2 pounds (8 eggs’ worth) of seashell noodles . . . but I use 300 grams or less to make, say, 8 eggs’ worth of ravioli sheets . . . and both those numbers are for the hot, humid climate of Texas.  The exact number will feel like a crapshoot for a while, but take notes of how much you weigh out every time, and after a while you’ll have a very exact idea what weight of mix you need.

Set the weighed dry mix aside for a second.

(2)  Combine the eggs and olive oil in the food processor, then add the dry mix. You can use a dough blade if your food processor has one, but the usual blade works fine too.  Just pulse once or twice to combine the olive oil and eggs, then add the dry mix.  Make sure not to leave the intake open when you’re running the machine, or you’ll get a lovely fine mist of cornstarch dusting your entire kitchen.  :-)

The result of this mixing will be what I like to call “pasta meal.”  All the ingredients are combined, but the resulting dough is shredded into little granules that look kinda like couscous.  (In fact, if the dough tries to form into a ball that rides the blade, you need to stop and break it apart, or the rest of the dry mix won’t integrate properly into the dough.)  Who wants to knead all that together?  Not me.  That’s where the beautiful Lello machine comes into play.

(3)  Let the Lello machine form the “meal” into a dough. Be patient, and let the paddles in the mixer bowl press the dough together.  The way the machine is set up, there’s a little trap door in the bottom of the main bowl:  Leave it closed, and all the machine does is knead the dough; open it, and the machine presses the dough into the auger below to start extruding it through whatever pasta plate you like.  Once the dough looks pretty well combined, handle a little of it to make sure the consistency seems right (yes, I know, that’s one of those enterprises you just have to practice to get the hang of, sorry! :-) ), then you can open the little trap door and let the extrusion process begin.

(4)  Let the dough start extruding, cutting the noodles as they emerge, and setting them out to dry. This is the most annoying part, just because of the repetitive motion, and the speed at which this beast of an engine can push out dough.  There’s not much for a second person to do at this point, but that’s okay — they’ll earn their keep just spelling the first person once the relentless monotony of cutting noodles sets in!  :-)  Laying out pounds of noodles to dry takes plenty of clean counter space, so plan ahead.

(5)  Portion and freeze the noodles for later. That kitchen scale will come in handy again here; set it to ounces instead of grams, and you can portion off neat 1/4 lb servings of pasta for later in sandwich-size baggies.  Ravioli sheets you’ll want to use fresh, of course — once the dough dries or freezes you can’t make the dumplings with it — but you can freeze lasagna noodles stacked between sheets of wax paper in storage-size baggies.

And that’s it.  :-)  I haven’t hand-cranked or hand-pressed or hand-rolled a thing ever since I got the Lello machine, and I’m never looking back.  :-)

Merry Christmas!